Joe becomes friends with a deaf-mute girl named Ann Croft after he defends her against a stalker. A good portion of the episode recounts Joe's efforts to teach sign language to Ann.
The friendship begins when Joe, en route to Placerville to tend to Ponderosa business, tries to educate Ann's father, Sam, about his deaf-mute daughter. He believes her condition is a curse from God and has no intention of helping her or gaining any understanding about it. He reveals that he wants to protect her by sheltering her at his home.
Joe buys a book on sign-language and, after mastering some of the basics, begins to teach Ann how to communicate. The weeks pass and Joe keeps passing his knowledge on to Ann, who quickly picks up on the lessons.
Sam, in essence, tells Ann, "That's nice what you're learning, waving your arms around and all that." But the first real roadblock comes when Joe tries to teach Ann the sign for love. He tries to use Ann's love for her father, and vice versa as the example, but Ann misunderstands and reveals her love for Joe. She tries to kiss Joe, at which time Sam walks in. Having not witnessed the earlier part of the lesson and not interested in an explanation, he charges that Joe is trying to make the moves on Ann and orders him out.
Joe wants to find a way out of the mess and goes to his Pa for advice. Ben reminds Joe that he needs to help Ann understand her true feelings, which do not include love (as between a husband and wife) but gratitude.
While all this is going on, Joe has to deal with Albie, a simple-minded trapper who has been harassing Ann and is enthralled by her beauty. Obsessed with having Ann all to himself, the oafish Albie stalks her. Already, Joe has fought off Albie and ordered him never to return. But Albie keeps tracking Ann, and eventually forms a plan to kill both Sam and Joe so he can make his sick, twisted dreams come true.
Albie nearly makes good on his goal. This happens after Joe explains he does not love Ann, and she runs out. Sam worries about his daughter and goes looking for her. However, he runs into Albie, who beats up and throws him in a ravine.
Ann finds her injured father and runs home, only to find Albie waiting for her. He corners Ann (we can see most of his lecherous moves through her vantage point) and tries to rape her, but she gets away. Albie nearly catches her, but Joe arrives in the nick of time and fights him off.
Joe and Ann begin their getaway, with Albie still trailing them, and the fight is on again. In a last-ditch effort to gain an edge, Albie grabs his knife and runs toward Joe, but the littlest Cartwright manages to dodge him at the edge of a cliff. Albie tumbles over the edge and is fatally injured.
In the end, Ann finally understands that her relationship with Joe is "just friends," and Sam is grateful to Joe for helping both of them. Ben also commends Joe for how he handled everything.